To the Polls

Get the India ink ready, Ahmed. The voters are coming.

In just a matter of hours, the people of Iraq are going to vote for the ratification of their constitution. This is an important day in the democratic process, but the outcome of the vote is not vital. From the transitional constitution, a translation of the law now governing the Iraqi ratification election.

Article 61 [Deadlines]
(A) The National Assembly shall write the draft of the permanent
constitution by no later than 15 August 2005.
(B) The draft permanent constitution shall be presented to the Iraqi people
for approval in a general referendum to be held no later than 15 October 2005.
In the period leading up to the referendum, the draft constitution shall be
published and widely distributed to encourage a public debate about it among the
(C) The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution
ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the
voters in three or more governorates do not reject it.

If the constitution is approved, there will be some coverage in the MSM about it. There will be a few mentions of it on the 24 hour news channels and a guest or two saying what a wonderful development this is, but the coverage will soon be overshadowed by Bush approval ratings poll numbers and the fact that we have had soldiers killed there. For the Iraqis it will mean:

(D) If the permanent constitution is approved in the referendum, elections for a permanent government shall be held no later than 15 December 2005 and the new government shall assume office no later than 31 December 2005.

If the measure is defeated, it will result in wall to wall coverage
of the story, with all manner of commentators filling up the television screens
trying to explain how this is a major defeat for Bush and the democratic process
in Iraq.

Don't let them fool you. Though a no vote is quite possible, in fact, almost guaranteed with the very high standard of approval for the document, it is not the end of the world, the end of the process or the first indication of a total breakdown of the Iraqi government. Yes, it will be a great disappointment to many people, especially those who worked so hard trying to cobble this thing together, but there are too many Iraqis, Shia, Kurd and yes, even Sunni, who believe in the process too much to let a setback be the end of it. But it has already been provided for. Going back to the interim constitution;

(E) If the referendum rejects the draft permanent constitution, the National Assembly shall be dissolved. Elections for a new National Assembly shall be
held no later than 15 December 2005. The new National Assembly and new Iraqi
Transitional Government shall then assume office no later than 31 December
2005, and shall continue to operate under this Law, except that the final
deadlines for preparing a new draft may be changed to make it possible to
draft a permanent constitution within a period not to exceed one year. The
new National Assembly shall be entrusted with writing another draft
permanent constitution.

What should be the reaction to a no vote? First of all, it needs to be stressed that the activities of the terrorists have no bearing on the vote. Anybody who so much as implies otherwise should be held in contempt. The very fact that the Iraqi people show up at the polls to cast their ballot is a not only a rejection of the terrorists, but an act of defiance against all they stand for. To say that the terrorists who did not have the ability to frighten people away from the polling places scared them into voting against the constitution is ridiculous.

Is it a defeat for Bush? I don't think so. Bush had nothing to do with the writing of this constitution, (except for setting the conditions that allowed for it to be written in the first place), and whether it passes or is rejected is no commentary on him or his administration. I am sure that he will be disappointed by a rejection, but it does not reflect upon him.

Is it a defeat for the democratic process? What kind of alternate reality does one have to occupy to think that deferring to the results of a vote is a defeat for democracy? Remove the tinfoil from your head and have a burger. All those vegetables are obviously not providing your grey matter with enough nutrition. it is not the defeat of democracy, but the implementation of it. The Iraqis will get a chance to go back to the polls and try it again.

I am excited about the Iraqis heading to the voting booths, and am very hopeful that they will have an approved Constitution at the end of the day. It will probably be some time before the results are known and released. Until then, I can only hope for the best, and pray that God protect the American soldiers that are providing the necessary security for those going to the polls and freely expressing their desires.


100 Years

This post is inspired by the song "100 Years" by Blues Traveler. If you don't already own every Blues Traveler album, you need to go get them if it does not cause your financial ruin and you actually have the means to play them. (It would just be silly to buy CD's if you don't have a CD player.)

The gist of the song is that nothing we do today will mean anything to anybody 100 years from now, and generally stated that is true. Not many people get to be Leonidas at Thermopolae, Ceasar at the Rubicon, Jesus at Gethsemane, Luther in Worms, Columbus at Isobella's court, or Washington at- take your pick, when the actions you take and the decisions you make will change the course of world history. Most of what we do is rather mundane and affects nobody outside our immediate circle of friends and relations and even then generally does not cause much of a ripple in the waters of life.

There are things, however, that we do have influence over that do matter. Currently my country is engaged in what is popularly called the Global War on Terror, better known to others as Haliburton Stock Support. The current focus of the war is on the Iraqi battlefield, and is being fought not only with bullets and bombs, but with pens and ideas. In two days, the people of Iraq will be heading back to the polling places, defying terrorist thugs, to vote on the new Constitution. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, this could well be one of the history changing moments, but it will take more than the votes of the Iraqi people to pull it off. If the Constitution is approved, it will still take a great amount of assistance from the U.S. and its coalition partners to ensure that Iraq is able to put it into practice despite the violent wishes of foreign terrorists and a minority of home-grown thugs.

If the proposition fails, it requires an even greater act of will to ensure that the parties peacefully reconcile their philosophical and political differences and the desire of different groups to wield authority into a constitution that can be accepted by a broad consensus. It will be a great test on our belief in democracy and the right of self-determination, but one that we must pass.

There is no guarantee that even a successful outcome to establishing a democratic government in Iraq will truly lead to changes throughout the region, but doing so will be the most significant historic event since Ronald Reagan stood in Berlin and demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."


Tips on Happiness part III

So, there is a difference being having pleasure and being happy. So how does one become happy?

It helps to have a rhino hide. Being thin skinned is definitely a disadvantage to attaining happiness. If you are going to build up blood pressure every time somebody says something silly or doesn't give you all the respect you feel you deserve, you are going to be in for a lot of miserable moments. There are some offenses that must be addressed, but the fact that somebody says deaf instead of hearing-impared, or calls you a midget instead of vertically challenged, or uses the term liberal instead of sanity-free is really no reason to get your entire support group together to picket his grocery store. Just because somebody says Merry Christams to you does not mean that they want you to turn your back on Wicca and join a monestary.

Think about it. Does the sleight really matter? Usually, it doesn't. Does it affect your life? Does it prevent you from working or pursuing your leisure activities or interfere with your family life? Was it intended to be offensive? Most of the things we get upset about leave other people wondering what is wrong with us.

Getting upset too easily gets you nowhere, and it takes away some of the control you have over your own life. If the opinions and attitudes of others can have such an affect on you, then you in some ways become their marrionette, jumping whenever they pull your strings. Mellow out a bit and allow others to think what they want.

Remember, the First Amendment gives others the right to free speech, which, by extension, means that you will most likely be offended from time to time. The best way to deal with it is to let the insults fall to the wayside and go on with your life.

Murphy's Laws of Armor

For those of you who don't know, Murphy was a great philosopher, and came up with his "Law" after a great amount of study into the human condition. Murphy's Law is stated in its simplest form as, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." It sounds simplistic, but is really wonderfully complex. Of course, since its first inception, there have been many addendums, refinements and corrolaries to the original law to cover a vast array of situations and different occupations and hobbies. Clicking on the title of this post links to a corrolary set for tankers. It is a pdf link from Armor Magazine, so you probably need Adobe to read it.

When they really happen to you, they aren't all that funny.

UPDATE: Realizing that the stated laws make use of acronyms and military jargon that might be unfamiliar to some, here is a list of translations/explenations:

1: REDCON 1- Ready Condition 1, fully prepared to begin operations.

13: NMC- Non-Mission Capable, i.e. broken.
AO- Area of Operations, the part of the map you are concerned with.

19: TABLE VIII- Tank gunnery qualification table, where tank crews demonstrate their ability to hit enemy targets.

20: XO- Executive Officer- The second in charge of a unit, and the officer responsible for reporting to higher headquartes the maintenance status of equipment.
PAC- Powerpack, the engine/transmission of the tank.
DEADLINES- Faults on a peice of equipment that classifies it as NMC.
FMC- Fully mission Capable- In good (and we use the term loosely) working order.

25: FIRING CIRCUIT TEST- A means of verifying that the gun will go boom when you pull the trigger.

26: SABOT- A type of tank ammunition that is used against heavily armored vehicles.

27: NBC- Nuclear, Biological and Chemical
NBC TYPE- A soldier whose job is to detect NBC agents on the battlefield, help the unit to avoid them and decontaminate anything that didn't avoid them.
FOX- Vehicle used by NBC Types
BMP- Vehicle designed by the Soviet Union and used by most regimes that are unfriendly to American interests, aka- Target.

28: BLACKOUT DRIVE- Very dim colored marking lights on a vehicle for use when attempting to avoid enemy detection during darkness while allowing freindly vehicles to know where you are.



In 14 hundred and 92,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

This was one of the most significant events in world history. Hailed by many as a great explorer, and by others as an example of all that is wrong with western culture, the real truth is somewhere in between.

It is undeniable that Columbus was a man with a dream, and some sort of audacity to follow up on it. He had a beast of a time getting funding, and it was mostly through his force of personality that he was able to accomplish that.

Columbus should be celebrated by Americans. He should be seen as a symbol of our need to seek new areas, new enterprises, and to follow our dreams. We might not actually fulfill them (which, by the way, Columbus didn't, really) but we could just change the world with our pursuit.

Tips on Happiness part II

The chocolate worked, didn't it?

What's that? You are now out of chocolate, 10 lbs heavier and have three new cavities? Well, I guess that is part of lesson number one that you needed to find out for yourself to open up to some of the lessons I am offering. First of all, there is a great difference between "happiness" and "pleasure". Chocolate is pleasure, but pleasure is fleeting. Happiness is an attitude, not an emotion. There is a great difference between the two.

Often, the constant pursuit of pleasure can be an obstacle to happiness. Just look at my chocolate example. Sure, it was great while it lasted, but where are you now? More miserable than when you started.

Does this mean pleasure is a bad thing? Of course not, just remember that the pleasure that you are getting is not really happiness. Be ready for it to end.

We will delve deeper into this at some later time.

Courting the Spinster Meirs

I pretty much expected loud and overwrought wails of spite from Bush's Supreme Court Nomination, but not from the conservitives. That the liberals' heads aren't exploding, more than anything, seems to be the biggest problem that conservatives have. We were all expecting a solid strict-constructionist with a long record of being so.

W seemed to have something else entirely in mind. Harriet Miers has been pulled from the shadows, and nobody seems to know anything about her. She has no record as a jurist, so no history of writing to see what her judicial philosophy is. She does not even have a great amount of appelate court briefings from what I understand, to delve into how she would approach Constitutional questions. All that she seems to have going for her are her gender and a record as one of the better attorneys from Texas. That is all well and good, but there's a big defference between acting on a client's behalf and acting as an impartial arbitrator who applies the law.

That being said, I will also say right here that if it were up to me, W would have nominated Robert Bork for the position. Failing that, I think Micheal Luttig should have been the choice. Many have mentioned the names Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown for the position, either of whom would have been fine with me, except that nominating them would have seemed like an affirmative action choice, and the thought of a Supreme Court seat being reserved for any "group" is an affront to my sense of individual rights, so a white male would have been a great counterbalance to that. (For those of you who are keeping track, you could make an argument that I am being hypocritical there.)

It seems that W just didn't want to have a big fight about this nomination, probably because he is having perceived problems with other areas of his administration- Hurricane Relief, the fact that Iraq isn't a paradise on earth yet, and wanted to keep things quiet. So he nominated somebody that he thought the Democrats wouldn't get too up in arms about. He didn't expect to get so much anger from his own party.

In the end, I say that I must defend the choice. George W. Bush knows that his is a historic Presidency, and has had a clear vision of where he wants the country to go. He has not shied away from trying to make his visions a reality. He knows that other than executing the War on Terror, changing the direction of the Courts is his greatest opportunity to have a long-lasting impact on the direction of the nation. He knows Harriet Miers, and has more than likely had a very long interview process with her before making this decision. While I don't think that she will be able to articulate and defend the strict-constructionist view of the Constitution as Scalia and Thomas (and hopefully Roberts, who definitely has the intellect and seemingly the philosophy) I do think that she will at least follow original intent as best she can when she casts her votes.

Am I overjoyed by the nomination? No. Am I happy with the nomination? No. Am I content with the nomination? No. Am I able to tolerate the nomination? Yes. I think that we should support the nomination, and see Harriet Meirs take her place on the bench.